Tosca - out with a bang

OPERA singer Fabio Armiliato must be thinking that Tosca is his profession's equivalent of Macbeth as a work of ill luck.

Appearing as the eponymous heroine's beloved, Mario Cavaradossi, in the production's first night at the open-air arena in Macerata last week, he was stretchered off near the end of the opera after being hit in the leg by debris from blanks fired in the execution scene.

For Friday night's performance, the tenor bravely hobbled back on stage - then fell and broke his other leg in two places while standing in the wings at the end of the first Act. He returned to hospital by ambulance, commenting from his stretcher: "Could it be that I am destined never to leave this theatre on my own two feet?"

He told RAI state television: "It was incredibly bad luck. I put my foot down wrong." His injury will keep him out of action for two months. Earlier he had said he had resumed his role so as not to disappoint the fans at Macerata, whose festival is a highlight of Italian summer opera.

Armiliato's shooting was a grimly appropriate conclusion to an opera that has suffered more than its fair share of mishaps down the years. Indeed, in the context of the opera itself, the death of Mario is something of a mishap, since both he and Tosca believe that the rifles aimed at him are not loaded and that their salvation is nigh once the mock execution is over.

It can't have helped Armiliato's mood, as his legs gave way beneath him, to hear his co-star sing one last line about how convincingly he had just faked his own death. Fiction became hopelessly entangled with reality - and not for the first time in a production of Tosca.

Back in the 1920s, at the Met in New York, the knife with which Tosca (Maria Jeritza) murders the evil Baron Scarpia (Antonio Scotti) at the end of Act II failed to retract and the singer was stabbed. During the famous Covent Garden production of 1965, Maria Callas's hair caught fire while she was singing the title role and had to be put out by a quick-witted Scarpia, played by Tito Gobbi.

The firing squad scene has caused problems before now. Also in 1965, at Rome's Caracalla Baths, the gunfire scorched Gianni Raimondi's face.

A rather different mishap occurred in a previous Macerata festival, when the sound effects failed and the rifles made no noise. Next day a local paper wrote: "Cavaradossi dies of a heart attack."

Any number of calamities have attended the final moment, when Tosca flings herself off the ramparts, supposed to be those of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. Legend has it that one particularly portly soprano in the 1920s landed on the offstage trampoline and bounced straight back up in full view of the audience. More seriously, the American singer Elisabeth Knighton Printy jumped off the wrong side of the stage in St Paul, Minnesota, two years ago and plunged more than 30ft to the ground, breaking both legs.

Going to the opera is such a respectable pursuit that there is something strangely heartening about such stories of disaster and incompetence. Yet all the ingredients for unexpected catastrophes, from high emotion to low cunning, are right there in the genre itself. Tosca is far from the only casualty. Indeed, Fabio Armiliato himself was in hospital once before, after a sword pierced his foot during a production of Carmen.

He has many illustrious precedents. At a performance of Rigoletto in Chile in 1970, as the tenor Louis Quilico threw his head back to start singing, a feather floated down from the rafters straight into his mouth. He passed out without uttering a sound.

Rather higher drama was on offer in Montevideo in 1934 when an orchestra member pulled out a gun and killed the conductor in mid-performance. It turned out that the conductor, Franco Paolantonio, had been sleeping with his wife.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
propertyfilmReview: It's the sheer nastiness of the Riot Club that takes you aback, says Geoffrey Macnab

Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week